Sponsored by RCM Aeroservices LTD
Analysis of large volumes of data is nothing new to the aviation industry. For example, engine manufacturers have long been performing trend monitoring, utilizing information on engine operating parameters (fuel consumption, exhaust temperatures, fan vibration, etc.) to track the “health” of turbofan engines and manage removals and overhauls. This has translated into huge cost savings for airlines by providing them with accurate forecasts of engine changes.
This kind of analysis, however, has been difficult to extend to other systems on the aircraft.
Now, of course, there are health monitoring systems for aircraft that collect and transmit vast amounts of data from countless sensors on-board. These data are sent in real time to ground bases for rapid analysis, which then provides guidance to the airline for corrective action once the aircraft lands.
This sounds terrific – in theory. In practice, and especially in the high cycle environment of today’s domestic airlines, there is simply not enough time to analyse the information received to provide meaningful guidance. Plus, these systems, and their monthly service charges, are often prohibitively expensive for smaller airlines flying smaller aircraft.
While most of the large airlines have reliability departments with in-house capabilities to track and analyse fleet performance, smaller airlines such as regional carriers simply don’t have the budgets, platforms or expertise to do much more than the basics. Some turn to the OEMs to help them understand their reliability drivers, and to assist in corrective action plans. But OEMs are primarily concerned with the purely technical, or “chargeable” drivers – those that are often their own responsibility to correct. This limited view doesn’t begin to fully uncover the whole picture at an airline.
The overall performance of an airline is dependent on a host of moving parts, and there typically is no single department responsible for all. As in most organizations there are various departments, such as flight operations and maintenance, that impact performance, and they all have their own measures. It is often left to the CEO/COO to try and reconcile these various measures and understand what needs to be done to improve.
There are several companies that sell software packages that can analyse large volumes of data and provide in-depth trending and statistical reports. These can be a very valuable visualization of, say, the reliability of a certain component, showing historical trends. However, the accuracy of the output is wholly dependent on the input – garbage in, garbage out. Airline maintenance records, pilot reports, and shop (overhaul) reports are often stored in different databases, and sometimes still on paper. A certain component failure and subsequent replacement will trigger some or all of these various reports to be created – all pertaining to the same event. Add in the human element, where part numbers are entered incorrectly for example, and the ability of these software tools to find and correct input errors while trying to make sense of multiple, often conflicting databases becomes daunting. One should take their output with a few grains of salt.
Another challenge facing an already busy airline is the daunting task of implementing a new system into their unique IT environment. Budgets and timelines – often established with the help of the overly optimistic software provider – typically are exceeded, requiring special focus to recover. An airline just wants to fly people, not fix computer systems. This is why RCMBT decided long ago to provide an analysis service to airlines and OEM’s, with no requirement to make any IT changes at the customer. The pertinent data – in any format – is simply sent to RCMBT for analysis. The first, and most important, first step is the cleansing of said data, apply customer’s business rules so that whatever analysis that is provided can be trusted. The airline can then focus on developing corrective action plans, and improving their business.
One area in an airline operation that continues to frustrate even the biggest players is parts forecasting. By this I include not only predicting what parts are needed for future demand, but also where they should be located. It has been said that “uncertainty is the mother of all inventory” – and airlines would dearly love to reduce their spare parts holdings, while maintaining (or even improving) their fleet performance. Traditional forecasting methodology is like driving by looking in the rear-view mirror – stocking parts based on historical usage. This approach has no chance to react to emerging reliability drivers, or new issues in an aging fleet. A new analytical tool has been developed by RCMBT that seamlessly integrates both the standard historical data with reliability trend monitoring, resulting in a predictive part usage forecast on a 3-month rolling value. Part location forecasting, based on current route structure and fleet size, is also a valuable output. As in any forecasting tool, the results are not infallible, but validations using real data shows an accuracy of 80-90%.
Airlines, and indeed most businesses, are drowning in data. The ability to measure and record information has far outpaced anyone’s capacity to analyse and understand it. Many are attempting to sort through all these data on their own, or “helped” by software providers who know little about the industry. We at RCMBT think that we have a better way – leveraging our decades of industry experience, coupled with cutting edge analytical capabilities, to provide comprehensive guidance. This timely and targeted analysis allows the airline to focus on their core business, and improve their bottom line.
RCMBT is a Richmond Hill Ontario data analysis and business intelligence services firm.
With a world-class international team, RCMBT is admirably equipped to deliver insightful analysis, actionable reporting and accurate and enriched business intelligence in support of pre-defined goals and business objectives.
Our depth of experience in the industries we serve, (aerospace and financial services), coupled with our ongoing commitment to innovative automation resources development allows us to function as a true service provider of segmentation and predictive analysis.
This, in turn, helps our client companies optimize their data and develop efficiencies that impact positively on their bottom line.
Please feel free to visit our web site at rcmbt.com or contact Paul Vascotto directly at 1 905-264-7501.